PITTSFIELD -- Construction is expected to begin in May on the final phases of a $1.7 million Pittsfield Common overhaul, which has a December target for completion.

The project, funded in part through a $2 million MassWorks grant, will bring a performance pavilion, a gazebo, a spray ground water park, a bathroom building, a full-size, lighted basketball court and other landscaping and visual improvements to the seven-acre site off First Street.

"This will be a big job; there'll be a lot of work happening in a relatively condensed period; and all expectations for performance will be laid out and we'll hold the contractor to it," said city Parks and Open Space Manager James McGrath.

McGrath, who presented an update to the Parks Commission this week, said the project's design was 75 percent complete and should be wrapped up within the next several weeks.

"This is where the rubber meets the road," he said.

McGrath told the commission he hopes to keep them engaged in the project and asked that members visit him for regular updates.

The upcoming work at the Common is part of Phase 3 of the Downtown Streetscape Improvement Project, which began in 2005. Phases 1 and 2 improved South Street from West Housatonic Street to Park Square and from there to Columbus Avenue on North Street. Planners want to improve North Street from Madison Avenue to Columbus Avenue in Phase 3.

The city continues to engage Barry Architects Inc. of Pittsfield to design the improvements, and the physical work should go out to bid in April, McGrath said.

Planned long-range improvements to another -- and much larger -- city park, Springside Park, also were discussed Tuesday.

The manager said the city Department of Community Development is seeking an "action plan" for Springside, and has divided the 260-acre park into nine separate planning districts.

"It's in each of these areas that we'll look at issues of ecology, environment, present use by the community and what structure improvements might need to be made," he said. "This is an attempt to look at the park, break it down into its parts and help us get our heads around what the needs are."

Springside's needs will be organized by priority and cost, the manager said, and implementation likely follow a piecemeal pattern as funding becomes available.

"We hope this plan creates a vision for the next 20 years for Springside Park," McGrath said.

Community Development also will host a public input meeting concerning a study of re-use options for Springside House at the park on March 31 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

CME Architecture of Woodstock, Conn., will discuss findings from a recently completed building evaluation of the house.

To reach Phil Demers:
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